Isle of Wight walkers and cyclists are questioning the need to close a popular cycle path for six months, for work to protect eels in the River Yar.

Southern Water is installing eel screens - to allow them to migrate safely.

Islanders are asking why the cycle path must be completely closed, along a stretch at Alverstone.

Southern Water insists the closure, between Longwood Lane and Alverstone Road, is necessary for safety reasons and said work would take six months.

It told the County Press in a statement: “We are sorry for disruption caused by works to install eel screens at our Sandown River Intake site on the River Yar, which is part of Southern Water’s Eel Screens Programme, a £20million plus investment programme.

Isle of Wight County Press: The letter from Southern Water

“To ensure we can complete this work safely it will be necessary to fully close the River Yar cycleway during the construction period, between the junctions with Longwood Lane and Alverstone Road.

“We’re aware that this is a cycle path is a public right of way and apologise for the inconvenience caused.

"An application for this closure has been made with Isle of Wight Council and a proposed diversion route for pedestrians and cyclists will need to be agreed by Isle of Wight Council.

"We thank everyone for their patience.”

It means part of the much-used Sandown to Newport cycle track, part of the Mountbatten's Walk the Wight flat walk, will not be available to walkers and cyclists.

Yesterday, that huge fundraising event was moved to September, due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Meanwhile, Isle of Wight Council said it was seeking further information from Southern Water.

Isle of Wight County Press: The part of the route that will be closed

In a recent statement, the council said: "Given the recent reopening of the route after a long closure, the Isle of Wight Council is anxious to ensure the route is accessible to riders and walkers as soon as possible.

"The council will be liaising with Southern Water to minimise the impact these works have on use of the track.

"Southern Water as a utility does have certain legal powers to undertake works on the highway and has to carry out such works in a safe manner, so might need to close roads and paths to do so.

"The council is currently seeking further information from Southern Water to clarify the situation."

The closure comes less than three months after a bridge across the Eastern Yar, near Alverstone, was replaced.